Your higher education in Washington state may be the first step towards a fulfilling and lucrative career in your chosen field. Whether you're a Cougar, Husky, or attend another one of Washington's many universities, you may soon find your focus spread thin. As you meet new friends, form a social routine, explore campus, and embrace all that college has to offer, things can go wrong.
Your academics can fall by the wayside. The pressure to perform can lead to lapses in judgment. Miscommunications or mistakes may lead to allegations of sexual misconduct. You may even face false accusations of misconduct.
If you find yourself facing a code of conduct violation, don't panic. If you make your next steps carefully, you may avoid serious sanctions. Consider the value of an attorney-advisor. An attorney may offer legal training and real-world experience that you don't have. They may offer advice, counsel, and services that you couldn't otherwise access.
Types of Conduct That May Violate Your School's Policies
Every university in Washington maintains rules and standards. The specifics of code of conduct policies may vary between schools. Each code of conduct policy aligns with a mission-type statement provided by the institution. As an example, the University of Washington's Student Policies state this:
“The University is governed by rules, regulations, procedures, policies, and standards of conduct that safeguard its functions and protect the rights and freedoms of all members of the University community.”
This sort of statement can be the foundation for more specific policies—policies that cover what you can, and can't, do as a student at your university. Most colleges in Washington will have specific policies for:
Forms of college academic misconduct have evolved drastically over the decades. University students have more capable means of plagiarizing, sharing answers, and cheating than ever before. The advent of the internet and cellphones has given college students every opportunity to cheat and required them to exercise more willpower than students in bygone eras.
Remote learning has only increased instances of academic misconduct among college students. Your university undoubtedly prohibits any form of academic wrongdoing, including:
● Plagiarism, or passing others' ideas, words, or work as your own
● Fabrication of data
● Using the internet to obtain answers in a prohibited manner
● Sharing test answers with other students
● Obtaining test answers before you take the test
● Working with other students on an individual assignment
● Hiring a third party to complete coursework
● Any act that violates your school's academic integrity policies
Every university in Washington frowns upon academic misconduct. In severe or repeat cases, academic misconduct is generally grounds for dismissal.
A sexual misconduct case at a university in Washington can compromise your education, personal reputation, and much more. Many cases of college sexual misconduct fall under the purview of Title IX. Federal regulations governing Title IX are subject to change, making these issues especially sensitive.
Universities in Washington will generally take action if you're accused of:
● Unwanted touching
● Statutory rape
● Sexual assault
● Unauthorized publication of pornographic material
● Unwanted penetration
● Unwanted requests of sexual favors
● Any aggressive or non-consensual act of a sexual nature
Your university may take swift action based on an allegation of sexual misconduct. Even before it issues any permanent discipline, your university may take interim measures. These measures may disrupt your academic and personal pursuits, and you may want to contest even non-permanent discipline.
The greatest threat in a sexual misconduct case, though, is dismissal without due process. The threshold for guilt in college sexual misconduct cases may be less than that of a criminal court. If you've been accused of sexual wrongdoing, then expulsion is a very real possibility.
Being branded a sexual offender is a consequence that ranges well beyond your academics. You need a strong defense to protect your name. An experienced attorney-advisor will provide such a defense.
Even if a student code of conduct doesn't explicitly prohibit “criminal behavior,” there may be significant overlap between a criminal code and a university's code of conduct. You may face significant disciplinary measures for alleged:
● Assault or battery
● Sexual violence
● Drug dealing or possession
● Criminal acts of any other kind
Even criminal allegations are merely allegations. An attorney-advisor can ensure that you receive due process before your university takes any premature disciplinary action.
General Behavioral Misconduct
Your university may prohibit several other behaviors, including:
● Violations of dormitory rules
● Possession of illicit drugs or alcohol (by minors)
● Disrespect towards faculty
Your university may have a robust code of conduct. If you cross any line listed within those conduct rules, then you may face significant punishment. Even comparatively mild consequences warrant a strong defense.
How Your School May Handle an Alleged Code of Conduct Violation
Students facing misconduct allegations in Washington benefit when they're informed of the adjudication process. In fact, a proper defense is not possible unless you understand your school's disciplinary procedures.
The adjudication generally begins with notification. Both the accuser and the accused should receive written notice of pending allegations. You may have the opportunity to admit to wrongdoing and accept sanctions. A Dean or similar faculty member may handle this discussion, as they may have the unilateral authority to issue a resolution.
If you contest the allegations against you, an investigation typically follows. Your university may designate an independent investigator to:
● Discuss misconduct allegations with all relevant parties—generally, the accused individual, their accuser, and any witnesses to alleged misconduct
● Gather any evidence of misconduct, or any evidence exonerating the accused
● Complete an investigation report, which may include their judgment of guilt or innocence and recommended sanctions (if any)
Universities in Washington generally allow you to correct any errors in an investigation report. If the report suggests that you may be responsible for allegations against you, then the next step may be a hearing.
Understanding the Hearing Process
Your university may order a hearing to determine your responsibility for misconduct allegations. At the University of Washington (UW), a Conduct Officer can request a hearing as part of the fact-finding process. A misconduct hearing at UW generally:
● Involves the Conduct Officer, the accused (or respondent), and the accuser (or complainant)
● Allows the accuser and accused to present witnesses
● Presents the opportunity for all parties to plead their case (either for guilt or innocence)
At UW, the Conduct Officer has the final say over the admissibility of evidence and witnesses and also the judgment of the accused. At other schools, a committee of faculty and students may determine the culpability of the accused.
The hearing process at your university may be similar to UW's. You may have an attorney-advisor lead your side of a misconduct hearing. Your attorney may question witnesses, present favorable evidence, and make oral arguments. Your attorney will prepare you before your hearing takes place. What you say—or don't say—during this hearing could be absolutely critical to your case outcome.
Sanctions for an Alleged Code of Conduct Violation
Universities have a broad range of powers. Your school's student code of conduct may explain which penalties correspond to specific infractions. Generally, though, universities can issue any sanction they see fit.
Formal penalties for code of conduct violations include:
● A verbal reprimand or warning
● A written reprimand
● Failing you on certain coursework or in a class
● Probation (academic or behavioral)
● Revocation of financial aid or scholarships
● Suspension or removal from university facilities, including but not limited to dormitories
● Suspension from all participation in university life, including academics
● Permanent dismissal from your university
Though your university in Washington may prefer to see you succeed, you may be only one of thousands of students. Sanctions may be a much greater problem for you than those who will issue the sanctions. The onus is on you, therefore, to fight any penalties that you face.
Consequences of Dismissal for a Code of Conduct Violation
Dismissal is the most extreme punishment that your school's disciplinary bodies can impose. The problem is, your school may not consider dismissing you to be an extreme measure—not if it brands you guilty of a significant code of conduct violation. Without an effective defense, you may find yourself facing the grave consequences of expulsion, including:
● Lasting stigma: The stigma of dismissal may prevent you from enrolling in many other universities. You may also feel the effect of expulsion in future job interviews. Limited professional opportunities (again, due to your dismissal) could limit your earning power.
● Loss of academic progress: Even if you re-enroll at another university, much of your academic progress may be lost. Though some credits may transfer, a new university may have different graduation requirements. Lost progress may increase the cost of your education and delay your graduation date.
● The end of your college career: Studies suggest that most dismissed students re-enroll in university. However, financial, logistical, or personal circumstances may prevent you from re-enrolling after dismissal.
● Lost professional goals: You may have to reorient your professional goals because of a dismissal. If you can't re-enroll in university, have to change your field of academic study, or lose job opportunities because of your dismissal, then your career may not unfold as you've envisioned.
A dismissal may also take an emotional and psychological toll on you. You may lose valued friendships, experience feelings of shame, and struggle with your next steps after dismissal. Such consequences may even harm physical health. The negative effects of dismissal are truly difficult to measure.
How Can You Defend Yourself From an Alleged Code of Conduct Violation?
Defending yourself will start with the investigative process. If necessary, your defense will extend all the way to an appeal. An attorney-advisor can advise you at every step, directly mounting your defense where they're permitted to.
This said, your first step may be to hire a qualified attorney-advisor. Your advisor will ensure that you make no statements or actions that will compromise your defense. Your attorney's duties may include:
● Gathering exculpatory evidence
● Obtaining witness testimony or arranging for witnesses to testify at your hearing
● Consulting with your university's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) to see if it offers an acceptable resolution
● Preparing you for any upcoming misconduct hearing
● Accompanying you to your hearing, where they may question witnesses, present evidence, and contest the case against you
● Pleading for leniency if you've admitted wrongdoing
Your attorney-advisor will quickly learn about your school's adjudication procedures. As they prepare your defense, you can focus on your existing responsibilities.
The Appeals Process May Be a Crucial Step in Your Defense
If you receive a negative ruling—or have already received one—then an appeal is necessary. Appeals processes can vary significantly between universities. Your university may dictate:
1. Whether you can appeal a specific decision
2. How long you have to file an appeal
3. On which grounds you can file an appeal
4. Who will hear your appeal
5. The time within which you receive a decision on your appeal
Your attorney will obtain these details. Time is generally a key factor in the appeals process, so expect your attorney-advisor to act with urgency.
Possible Grounds for Appeals
Though each school maintains its own policies, accepted grounds for appeal may include:
● That the punishment you've received is excessive based on your alleged misconduct
● That your accuser, witnesses, or members of a disciplinary body had a bias towards you
● That new evidence warrants reconsideration of your case
● That the handling of your original case deviated from proper procedures
Other grounds for appeal may be valid. Your attorney will clearly articulate your reason for appeal when they file the petition.
Which University Decisions Can You Appeal?
You can generally appeal an order of dismissal or suspension, no matter the allegation that triggered the order. You may also appeal other sanctions, like probation, revocation of financial aid, a failing grade, and any formal reprimand. Your ability to appeal a ruling will rest on your university's policy.
Appealing Code of Conduct Sanctions at a University in Washington
If you need to file an appeal, then you must be ready to act. Universities in Washington will generally allow you a brief window to file your appeal petition. This window may be only a matter of days—in many cases, less than ten.
Your attorney-advisor will craft a well-substantiated appeal petition. The appeal petition will generally:
● Describe your grounds for appeal (in as much detail as possible)
● Include any evidence supporting your grounds for appeal
● Make the most comprehensive, persuasive case for an appeal hearing
Your university will determine how to process your appeal. Your appeal may be solely written, or your attorney-advisor may accompany you to an appeal hearing.
An appeal may not be your last chance to secure a positive outcome. An experienced attorney-advisor may negotiate directly with your school's Office of the General Counsel (OGC). The OGC may advise university administrators in legal matters and may be able to override disciplinary rulings.
The OGC may prefer to reach an acceptable settlement rather than risk your attorney-advisor taking further legal action.
Should You Hire an Attorney-Advisor for Your Code of Conduct Issue in Washington?
You should not combat allegations of misconduct without an attorney- advisor's help. An experienced advisor will offer something that all the research in the world can't provide: experience. In fact, an attorney-advisor may even have handled cases at your university for prior clients.
A capable attorney-advisor will:
● Make all of their firm's resources your resources
● Staunchly defend your rights
● Handle as much of your case-related proceedings as they can
● Work with any experts who can assist in your defense
● Be ready to file your appeal as soon as necessary
● Seek a positive outcome for you through all available channels
An attorney-advisor's benefits may extend to your health. You may avoid harmful stress by letting an advisor lead your defense. Focus on what you can control while a professional handles your case.
Call the Lento Law Firm for Help With Your Code of Conduct Issue in Washington
As you now know, an alleged code of conduct violation can change everything, and not for the better. Your reputation, personal wellbeing, and professional goals may be at risk. An effective attorney-advisor could be the difference in your case.
Joseph D. Lento and The Lento Law Firm team offers the resources that college students facing sanctions need. We can move quickly on your case, obtaining all relevant information and evidence. We will then mount a robust defense, seeking the best possible outcome for you.
Student discipline defense is what The Lento Law Firm does. Let us handle your case from start to finish. Call The Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case. You may also submit your case details online, and we'll respond as quickly as we can.